Ideas often come to me in the form of a single image that usually is the crux of the whole story. Even while writing, many times I find myself with an image in my head that I then try to describe, poorly.
While watching Castlevania on Netflix
(yes, another show, I am a Netflix addict, I have already confessed it),
I had a moment where one such image flashed in my head. Now I cannot find an image like that but I can describe it:
The hooded figure was surrounded.
He looked up and the soldier in front of him got the full impact of those cruel red eyes before he evaporated into thin air.
The soldiers backed away as they realized just who it was they were facing. There was only one man on Uton who could do that. August grinned as he brought his palms together in a namaste. He twisted his hands and a current of bright red light emanated from around him like his whole body was on fire.
It was a powerful image and I started to write fervently. Till I reached about 10k words when I just stopped and couldn’t continue. It was a late realization that not only had I not planned anything, but I also didn’t have a plot.
Hence today’s post, my two bits on how to plot a story:
You get an idea, an inspiration. Like me, don’t start writing it immediately. Don’t start furiously noting it down for fear you’ll forget it. The idea is just the seed. You need to plant it in your fertile brain, water it, give it some sun and let it grow a shoot.
Who comes first, plot or character, is like a chicken and egg question. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes the idea is a plot and you need to fill it with characters. Sometimes the idea is characters and you need to give them a direction. Since ideas come to me in the form of images, for me defining a plot is more difficult than defining characters. For my manuscript, the basic premise was:
Rey Birch is a deaf-mute girl and her village is dying. The gods and angels use her to communicate how the village can save itself.
But where do you go from there?
I started with defining my main characters. Since Rey wasn’t supposed to be an orphan, she needed a family. Since she wasn’t going on this quest alone, she needed more characters who needed their own families. Of course, its not necessary that you will use all these characters or they will remain the way you have envisaged them. But characters is where I begin.
Read this know how I sketch characters.
I have my basic premise. I have my characters. Now I need a direction. This takes some time. Like I said, plotting is harder for me. For my manuscript, which was going to be a trilogy, I not only had to think about how each of the books would end but also how the trilogy would end. With The Gunslinger, I had a vague idea of where I wanted to go. With Mayank, I only knew how I didn’t want it to end.
Once again, give yourself some time to think about where you want to go. I often dialogue this with myself – talking, adding, rejecting ideas. It’s usually done out loud, but thankfully my family is used to my eccentricities. As my mother says, I get this intense expression on my face when I am thinking about a story.
A great piece of advice which I think almost all authors agree with is to know your ending, one which will not change in its essence. The details will change as your plot evolves and the characters who reach the end may not be the same that began the plot but the essence of the end will not change.
Now that you have an ending, or a vague sense of an ending, write a synopsis of your manuscript. I didn’t do that with August’s story and those 10k words are simply lying in a word doc, unattended. I did do that with my manuscript. The end product is nowhere near that initial synopsis. Hell, my fifth draft which I deemed fit for consumption is nowhere near my final, final final, promise final draft!
But that synopsis gives you a sense of purpose, a blueprint to fall back on when you don’t know where to go.
Procrastinate by changing font size, opening and closing a document, waiting for the stars to align before you begin, vibrate with nervous energy, disbelief that you’re actually going to start writing, etc. etc.
Read this post to know the non-obvious things no one tells you about writing a manuscript.
PS: I haven’t attended any writing courses so if you were here hoping to read more about the 7-point plot structure (or whatever the hell it’s called) I am sorry to disappoint you. Frankly those 7 points scare the bejesus out of me. I prefer my method. It has worked so far and if and when it stops working, I’ll form a different method.
PPS: I wish I would take my own advice and try and make another dent at August’s story but I am better at sharing my learnings with you. I will come back to you August, I promise, pinky promise, I swear…I mean it.
The whole of September, I will be sharing posts on things I have learnt about writing. I am taking my blog to the next level with Blogchatter’s #MyFriendAlexa.